Equipment professionals often compare oil analysis to human blood tests. A blood test can indicate high cholesterol; oil analysis can reveal high levels of metals. The comparison breaks down, however, when we understand that oil inevitably becomes contaminated. Metals enter the system through normal wear. The trick is determining when contamination threatens the system that oil is designed to protect.
Most professionals understand the importance of oil analysis, and we would wager that this simple test is carried out by the majority of fleets in operation today. But according to Diego Navarro, service marketing manager for John Deere Construction and Forestry, many managers fail to properly analyze the tests they requisition.
That's what Navarro told attendees at the annual conference for the Association of Equipment Management Professionals, calling oil analysis an "underutilized" tool. According to statistics Navarro highlighted, 91 percent of hydraulic pumps that fail within the first 4,000 hours fail because of contamination, and 48 percent of bearings fail because of poor lubrication and contamination.
Those numbers should motivate managers to educate themselves on how best to use the analysis they pay to have sent their way. An oil-analysis report contains dozens of numbers, indicating levels of metal, water and so forth. Tracking those numbers over time reveal system trends.
Termed condition-based maintenance, this strategy allows managers to accurately predict a system's failure point and enables them to repair before failure. We've advocated this machine-management strategy in Construction Equipment both on this page and in our articles and departments, especially Mike Vorster's Equipment Executive. It's a sound strategy, and it extends machine life and operational efficiency. Navarro cited university studies that indicate condition-based maintenance can control 70 percent of premature wear.
In January, we published an article on how to read these reports. You can find that article, along with other articles we've written about oil analysis. Just type "oil analysis" in the search box.
If properly read, oil-analysis reports can lead managers to awareness of oil contamination far in advance of system failure. And with that kind of knowledge, managers can ensure those systems will perform when needed each and every time.